Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates

 

Updates and information about The Rashi School's response to the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and shift to Rashi Online. 

We greatly appreciate your support as we navigate this evolving situation. We continue to act to protect the health and wellness of our community, to lessen the risk of disruption to your children’s lives and the operation of the school, and to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, always guided by the values of The Rashi School. 


Communications Updates

List of 11 items.

  • An Update from Adam - 22 April, Yom Hashoah, Spring Plans

    Dear Rashi Families,
     
    It was wonderful to break matzoh together with so many Rashi families and faculty at the Yachad 2nd night Seder. Events that bring together our families provide a welcome connection to the ever-vibrant Rashi Community. Additional opportunities to gather and share our spirit remotely will be announced soon.
     
    Due to the governor’s executive order, published yesterday, we will not be together in our building on Great Meadow Road again this academic year. This turn of events is not entirely surprising. It is, nonetheless, disappointing. All of us at Rashi held out hope to return to our building this school year with our students and celebrate annual traditions and rites of passage with their families. We are particularly saddened at the change this makes to the spring for students in Grade 8. Please know that we are working on plans to celebrate graduation on the scheduled date as well as for a time to physically be together as health and safety precautions permit. There will be an optional meeting for graduating students who would like to be involved in planning the celebrations on May 1st.
     
    We understand the need for our common action for the health and safety of both our community and the greater community and will continue to follow expert advice. To that end, Rashi Nurse Kez Furth suggested this article that addresses common questions we may be asking now that we have been living with Social Distancing for a while.
     
    It is also important, as renowned psychologist Michael Thompson shared with us in the auditorium last spring, to recognize that we must allow space for the initial sense of loss that students and families may experience and allow space as well for students to work through it. We will continue to be a warm, welcoming community in support of each of us and all of us. As we plan to celebrate the accomplishments of Grade 8 students as they graduate, we will also recognize the rest of the student body as they step up to the challenges and excitement of a new year at Rashi in the fall.
     
    There are many eventualities for which we have planned and remaining in Rashi Online for this school year was one of them. Many of you have shared your appreciation for the iterations to your children’s program following the break. We expect the Rashi Online experience to continue to grow and improve as we move into the final months of the 2020 school year. In addition to changes to Lower School Kabbalat Shabbat and more small group work in Hebrew, Middle School students now have simplified access to the information they require and all can enjoy an expanding range of afterschool programming. We thank you for your support and partnership throughout.
     
    In order to facilitate this process for the rest of the school year, two days - Friday, May 1st and Friday, May 15th - will follow a different schedule. The majority of the day will be dedicated to professional development of new online curriculum, however students will have the opportunity to gather with each other and our faculty during Kabbalat Shabbat. As we did during break, we will provide assignments, activities, or optional academic extensions by grade levels. Details specific to your children will come from Division Directors Dave, Heidi, and Jen.
     
    Yesterday’s Middle School Yom Hashoah (Day of Holocaust Remembrance) was enhanced by a program with Dana Sandler, aunt of Ash ‘25 and Maddox ‘27. Dana shared the story of children’s poetry from Terezin Concentration Camp gathered in the book, I Never Saw Another Butterfly. Hearing the words of the young people in Terezin put to modern music provided a powerful demonstration of the resilience of Jews in the face of extraordinary struggles. Dana’s journey to create the music that grew out of the children’s poems, which she first encountered as a young teen, shared a meaningful and beautiful way to recognize this day... and to remember.
     
    Please feel free to contact me at adam@rashi.org or 617-969-4444.
     
    Warm Regards,
     
    Adam W. Fischer
    Head of The Rashi School
  • Update from Adam, 5 April 2020

    Dear Rashi Families,
     
    As the skies cleared somewhat and the sun peeked out over the weekend, I hope that wherever you were, you were able to enjoy it with family. As I hiked, I was uplifted by the image of my family out in the Berkshires also appreciating the brilliance of the forsythia bushes and the daffodils getting ready to bloom. Focusing on the elemental ways we are and can promote being together is an opportunity, an antidote to the alien aspects of this time each of us is experiencing. 
     
    This week, while our Faculty continued to develop Rashi Online, adding new content and people to the daily program and shifting to accommodate our ongoing learning, we also turned our attention to the next steps: the next areas to develop in providing the core, the non-negotiables of a Rashi education, whatever the medium. We will share more about these plans after our collaborative days of professional development next week. Our team is also looking further out, to the school year after May 4th and to next fall as well.
     
    At this time of year, The Board of Trustees and Head of School traditionally develop the budget for the coming school year. Though the uncertain times have upended many things, the work to prepare for the 2020-21 year at Rashi is well under way. I am grateful to have the counsel of such an experienced and varied group of Trustees as we synthesize information from many sources to inform our judgment as we plan. Understandably, the current situation has slowed the process. Nonetheless, we will complete our task judiciously and in a suitably timely fashion. 
     
    Middle School families may be familiar with the Dvar Torah Ms. Smiley’s advisory shared during Kabbalat Shabbat. It opened with, “The parsha (weekly Torah reading) tells us about a fire that was constantly burning... This everlasting fire reminds us that we still do our everyday rituals, even with coronavirus and no school in the building.” It closed with, “throughout all of the craziness going on in the world, the Rashi community keeps on burning strong just like the Constant Fire does. Our community's fire will never die out and we will continue to learn together no matter what is happening in the outside world.”
     
    I am continually impressed by our students’ understanding and commitment. It is echoed in the myriad messages from you that express your gratitude and support for the good work of the faculty and staff. Together, we weather the difficulties and build on the opportunities in support of our shared values. 
     
    In that vein, it is my pleasure to invite you to join members of the faculty and staff online Tuesday evening. It is my intention to bring us together to see one another, to catch you up on plans for Rashi Online post-Pesach (after Passover), and to hear about your experiences. Please see this week’s Daf Kesher newsletter for the link and timing. If there are particular topics of interest to you for our visit on Tuesday, please share them with Ilyssa Green Frey IFrey@rashi.org by noon on Tuesday.
     
    I invite you to contact me anytime at adam@rashi.org or (617) 969-4444. 
     
    Warm Regards,
    Adam
     
     
    Adam W. Fischer
    Head of The Rashi School
  • Rashi Online, COVID-19, March 16 2020

    Dear Rashi Families,
     
    I am happy today to briefly report on the energetic and positive day of work that Rashi Faculty & Staff put into Rashi Online!
     
    Those faculty who preferred to be in the building collaborated with others remotely, all the while maintaining proper “social distancing.”
     
    “Social distancing” is an important part of the community action to slow and limit the spread of COVID-19. Your family may find this article helpful to practice it well. We thank the Rashi Parents who brought it and a variety of other resources to our attention. We appreciate your partnership.
     
    In addition to packing up the items that students will need to work at home, we were also putting together packets of resources for the boxes.
               
    A reminder that the curbside pickup for the items students need for Rashi Online is Tuesday, 3/17, from 3-6pm.
     
    Please drive to the dropoff circle and we will bring your family’s boxes to your vehicle. There is no need to enter the school, or even to leave your vehicle. If you are unable to come at the scheduled time, please contact your child’s division director.
     
    Expect to hear from Dave, Heidi, or Jen after the curbside pickup Tuesday. I plan to communicate with you next on Friday as scheduled.
     
    Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns at adam@rashi.org or 617-969-4444.
    Adam
     
    Adam W. Fischer
    Head of The Rashi School
  • A Message from Adam, March 15 2020

    Dear Rashi Families,
    Today as we begin to share news with you about the shift to Rashi Online, it seems fitting to send my update on the situation at school via video.

    Please feel free to contact me at Adam@rashi.org or 617-969-4444.
    Adam
     
    Adam W. Fischer
    Head of The Rashi School
  • COVID-19 Update, March 14 2020

    Dear Rashi Families,
    I hope you are enjoying your weekend and spending precious time with family, I am writing to share the most recent COVID-19 update for the Rashi community. 
     
    Two Rashi parents were tested for COVID-19 on Friday, March 13. There are no test results at this time. The results may take up to four days to come back from the laboratory. One of the parents was at school on Tuesday, March 10. That parent was not yet exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and we have been advised that there was low risk of transmission because the individual was asymptomatic at that time. As mentioned in previous emails, our cleaning and disinfecting protocols meet or exceed CDC guidelines which further mitigates risk of infection.
     
    We have not heard of any Rashi student with COVID-19 symptoms. 
     
    As a community we will rally around all families who are affected by the virus and encourage you to reach out and provide help and uplifting messages to families in need of support. In the days ahead we will all know increasing numbers of people who will be faced with COVID-19 and self-isolation. We encourage everyone to think of creative ways we can support one another as a caring community during this unprecedented time and will be in touch about a concerted Rashi Community effort.
     
    We have spoken at length with a pediatric epidemiologist and are following his recommendations as well as standards from our local and state Boards of Health and the CDC. Per their advice, we plan to have faculty and staff come to the school Monday and Tuesday to work in small groups at a proper social distance. Our faculty and staff will refrain from handshaking and other “close contact” and wash their hands often. 
      
    As a reminder, we plan to have your children’s belongings available for collection in the drop off circle on Tuesday between 3pm and 6pm. If you are sick, please do not come to Rashi on Tuesday. If for this or any other reason you are unable to make it to the school, please contact your child’s division director. We will work with our community to find another way to repatriate your child’s belongings.
     
    Please feel free to contact me at adam@rashi.org or 617-969-4444.  
    Adam
     
    Adam W. Fischer
    Head of The Rashi School
  • COVID-19 Update, March 12 2020

    Dear Rashi Families,
     
    As I mentioned in previous emails, our response to the COVID-19 virus continually evolves as pubic health recommendations change. In the past 24 hours, it has become clear that our desire to protect the health and wellness of our community now mandates a change in the way we deliver education to your children and in the day-to-day operation of the school. We have been advised that social distancing is the most effective method of slowing the spread of the virus.
     
    Your Division Directors and I will deliver a more comprehensive message tomorrow, however here are important details for families:
     
    • The Rashi School will operate remotely through 3/27.
    • Friday 3/13 - No classes
    • Monday & Tuesday 3/16 & 17 – faculty work days, students will have designated times to collect items from school
    • Wednesday 3/18-Friday 3/27 – The Rashi School will implement age appropriate remote learning for students at every grade level 
     
    Please feel free to contact me at adam@rashi.org or 617-969-4444.
    Sincerely,
    Adam                                   
     
    Adam W. Fischer
    Head of The Rashi School
  • Update COVID-19, March 11 2020

    Dear Rashi Families,
     
    We greatly appreciate your support as we navigate this evolving situation. We continue to act to protect the health and wellness of our community, to lessen the risk of disruption to your children’s lives and the operation of the school, and to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, always guided by the values of The Rashi School.
     
    As I mentioned earlier today, Rashi students, members of the same family, were exposed to an individual outside the community who has tested positive for COVID-19. When the non-family member tested positive, the Rashi family immediately kept all family members who had contact with the individual at home and notified the school. At no time was anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 at Rashi. We are grateful that this family acted to keep us all safe and has shared information in a timely manner.
     
    We have been in touch multiple times today with the Dedham Public Health Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. They confirmed that Rashi continues to be at low risk. The students, who were in school earlier this week, were and are not symptomatic and therefore, were not at risk of exposing others. The Mass DPH confirmed the school’s course of action as prudent, commended the school’s cleaning regime, and suggested we resume normal operations with class on Friday. We, out of an abundance of caution are also going to continue to restrict visitors to the school, including parents.

    Tomorrow, our building will undergo additional cleaning while we continue to plan for a variety of scenarios that could play out in this evolving situation.
     
    Considerations for Friday given the current policy on access to our building:

    • Grade 8 debate options are being explored. Students should prepare to debate. A message will go out to MS families Thursday
    • Kabbalat Shabbat will be a spirited student-only gathering, please do not plan to join your children this Friday
     
    In addition to the resources listed in prior communications and our regular contact with local public and state health officials, please know that I am in regular contact with the Heads of many  independent schools, locally and in other cities.
     
    Please feel free to contact me at adam@rashi.org or 617-969-4444.
     
    We are grateful for the support that you, our critical partners in maintaining a healthy environment, are offering us throughout.

    Thank you,
    Adam
     
  • Interim Update COVID-19, March 10 2020

    Dear Rashi Families,
     
    This afternoon Governor Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts, “to support the Commonwealth’s response to coronavirus.” His declaration makes federal resources available to the state. There are no significant changes to the guidelines for K-12 schools. Our administrative team is monitoring the rapidly changing situation. 
     
    We realize that many of you are receiving daily emails from your places of employment and we are cognizant of the evolving lists of recommendations and restrictions for institutions of higher education as well as local, national, and global organizations. Please keep in mind that recommendations for K-12 schools, from sources like the Massachusetts DPH and the CDC, are different from business continuity efforts from those other kinds of organizations. We encourage you to share this difference in protocol with your children should they ask why, for example, you are working from home while they attend school.  
     
    We appreciate the assistance we are receiving from all of you, our critical partners in maintaining a healthy and safe environment. To further support this effort, we are limiting the flow of people into the building. Our visitor screening was recognized by our security firm as a best practice. They have shared it with all of their clients. 
     
    We are staying on top of public health recommendations. Wednesday, school nurse Keziah Furth will be meeting with public health officials in Dedham to learn the latest thinking and guidelines from the state. In addition, you already know about the increased frequency of cleaning of high touch surfaces in the school. We have shifted in all areas to products that both disinfect and sanitize. Teachers have these products available to them in classrooms. Other preventative measures utilized during flu season are practiced and reinforced numerous times daily.
     
    One of the benefits to our modern building is high air quality. Our systems exchange all of the air in the building ten times every day. The air throughout the building is filtered. In fact, at every classroom the air passes through a HEPA filter before entering the classroom.
     
    Our goal continues to be to provide students, faculty, and staff with a healthy environment in which to learn and teach. We strive to maintain the students’ routine. If at some point there is a directive that we close the school, we intend to provide meaningful work for students, guidance for families, and distance learning in age appropriate ways. Wednesday morning is our next planning session for this eventuality.
     
    In the spirit of maintaining school life, I’d like to share that the building was filled with the celebration of Purim - marvelous costumes, vigorous shaking of groggers at readings of the megillah (the groggers were boxes of pasta that will be donated), hamantaschen (thank you, Yachad!), and plenty of outdoor play. We are grateful, particularly in the current atmosphere, to be able to offer these joyful experiences to students.
     
    Please contact me with questions or concerns by reply email or by calling 617-969-4444.
     
    Warmly,
    Adam
  • COVID-19 Update, March 6 2020

    Dear Rashi Families,
     
    In our final update of this week: visitor screening and a reminder about precautions.
     
    Screening:
    The Rashi School has implemented a visitor screening policy based on recommended precautions. Similar to the travel policy, visitors to the school are screened at security and appointments rescheduled or conducted in another manner if: 
     
    They have traveled to a high-risk (Level 3) country (including and not limited to China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy) 
     
    or 
     
    They have COVID-19 type symptoms, such as cough, fever, and shortness of breath AND have a family member or a close contact who has traveled to one of the above countries. 
     
    This policy is posted at the entrances to the school as well as at the security desk.
     
    Precautions:
    Massachusetts remains a low risk area at this time, but please continue to follow the CDC’s guidelines for prevention:

    • Wash your hands regularly with soap
    • Cover your cough
    • Clean frequently used surfaces 
    • Stay home if you are sick 
     
    You can expect an update from the school next Friday unless there are significant changes before that time.
  • Thoughts and plans, March 4 2020

    Dear Families,
     
    By now you've read Adam's message about Covid-19 and you know that our trip is not going to happen as scheduled.  We're sure that many of you feel as we do- a mixture of sadness, frustration and relief.  We have never dealt with a scenario like this one, and we are glad that, in the end, the decision became crystal clear when Governor Baker made his announcement today and when we learned that a critical mass of schools that Rashi considers partners suspended their international travel programs. The good news is that none of us are Moses.  This is not our only opportunity to visit the Land of Israel.  Whether we get there as a class or we get there at another time, we can all get there.
     
    Your kids are going to have a wide range of emotions about this.  We plan to meet with them tomorrow to let them vent their feelings and to ask as many questions that they have.  We don't promise to have all of the answers, but we do have a tremendous amount of empathy.
     
    We are going to explore options for postponing the trip to later in the year or for taking a different type of trip here in the US.  We are also gathering information about refunds from ElAl for our tickets and from our travel company in Israel for our on-the-ground expenses.  There are no secrets, and we will keep you updated as we learn more about our options.  To be clear, we will not go anywhere until after Pesach vacation, and the kids will have school with regular classes between now and then.  
     
    What we appreciate most is the unwavering support that you have offered to your kids, the school and to us as we have gone through this experience.  We have felt the weight of your trust as much as we have felt the weight of our responsibility for your children.  Thank you for both.
     
    Please continue to be in touch with questions, thoughts and ideas.

    Shalom,
    Sharon and Jen​
     
  • COVID-19 Update, March 2 2020

    Hello Rashi Families,
     
    I hope this note finds you well. I just returned from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) annual conference. It was invigorating to be sharing ideas and learning with nearly 5,000 other educators from across the country and around the world.
     
    As you would expect, dealing with the current coronavirus, labeled COVID-19, was a major area of conversation among leaders of day and boarding schools. NAIS added a session to the conference to cover the variety of considerations a school takes into account as we work to ensure the health and safety of our students and school community. This message updates you on actions Rashi is taking and shares links for you to keep up to date with information from the recommended and reliable sources that we are following.
     
    First, Rashi and specifically our nurse, Keziah Furth, is in touch with local public health agencies and is following the best practices as recommended by local, national, and international agencies. While the risk in Massachusetts is currently low, our leadership team is preparing for a variety of scenarios. We also recognize that this is a learning opportunity for Rashi students, so Faculty and Staff are collaborating on how to talk with children about COVID-19 in developmentally appropriate ways, just as we would in the case of any major event. Kez is visiting all grade levels this week to refresh students' practice of proper hygiene, so that they understand how to reduce their risk of infection. 
    
    Second, you are our critical partners in maintaining the health of the school community. While COVID-19 may not be familiar to us, the hygienic precautions are:

    • Stay home when you are sick with respiratory disease symptoms. At the present time, these symptoms are more likely due to influenza or other respiratory viruses than to COVID-19-related virus.
    • Cover coughs and sneezes. If you use a tissue, dispose of it properly in the trash.
    • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60%-95% alcohol.
    • Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects 
     
    These routine practices strengthen community resilience and readiness for responding to an outbreak. 
     
    Third: here are a few of the resources we are using that we thought might be helpful for you as well:

    Recent statement from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. It includes other links to important precautions to consider for you and your family.

    US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 
    and the World Health Organization. They are clear, comprehensive, cite evidence-based sources, and are consistently updated.
     
    A reassuring note about Covid-19 in children: COVID-19 seems to be more mild in children
     
    Lastly, with regard to the Grade 8 Israel trip, in addition to the CDC, we are monitoring travel advisories at the US Department of State and with these agencies’ Israeli counterparts. We are also in close contact with our Israel tour company, Alexander Muss, as well as our partners at the Leo Baeck School in Haifa. Both partners are updating us on their view of the situation in Israel. This is a rapidly changing situation. At this time, the trip continues as planned.
    
    You may expect a regular update from the school on Fridays, with other communications as necessary.
     
    While we prepare for a variety of possibilities and will be ready to adapt, it is our intention to continue life as usual at The Rashi School and look forward to seeing everyone as we celebrate Purim in a variety of ways this week. 
    
    Please feel free to reach out to me at any time by replying to this email or by phone at (617) 969-4444.
     
    Sincerely,
    Adam

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